Photo Credit: Niles Gregory
“Breaking the fourth wall” is a device frequently used in theater and films where the characters either speak directly to the audience, or somehow acknowledge that they’re in a work of fiction. This isn’t as common in music, but on the opening (and title) track of their third album Into the Raging Sea, Richmond, Virginia band Broadside start out by telling the listener: “36 minutes of your time… // If I sang the right words, would you decide // To stay, please stay.” Does anyone remember the last time any album opened with a reference to the record’s length? (Raging Sea is actually thirty-six minutes and forty-four seconds, but let’s not split hairs).
So following this first cut, should a listener “stay, please stay” for the rest of Into the Raging Sea’s remaining ten tracks? Mostly, sure. Broadside’s brand of marginally more adult emo combined with a healthy amount of ‘80s pop doesn’t really offer anything new or particularly unique, but overall is a fun, tight listen. They go right for uptempo on second cut “Foolish Believer”, before attempting the hat trick with the ultra-catchy explosive rocker “Overdramatic” (which, ironically, isn’t).
“Clarity” is clearly a solid mid-tempo offering with strong lyrics, introspective but universal (“I might be missing some pieces // I must be out of my mind // They say it takes some patience // I’m running out of time”) and the song ultimately comes off sort of as marginally more upbeat Nine Inch Nails. “Heavenly” is another overall winner, echoing ‘90s adult alternative a bit and then including a screaming vocal which actually finds the right modulation for the song, as opposed to trying to say: “See? We’re still a punk band at heart.”
Getting back to the aforementioned ‘80s pop influence, this is perhaps most obvious on “Dancing on the Ceiling (With You)” based just on the obvious fact that it shares a title with a 1986 hit by Lionel Ritchie. However, that same influence is also apparent on the nicely catchy “Nights Alone.” The underlying idea, however, sort of runs out of breath just a bit on “Breathe You In”, due in part to its use of one seriously off-putting lyrical cliché (“Feels like I’m always on the outside looking in”).
Into the Raging Sea concludes with a pair of songs that together create a sold closing act. First, there’s the epic “Setting Sun”, a tight rocker which perhaps suggests a strong nod to Bad Religion with a hint of the Beach Boys. The album then bows out entirely with the under-three-minutes “Burning at Both Ends”, a haunting piano ballad which works beautifully as a curtain-closer, saying in effect: “That’s it. We’re done. Go home.”
So once we’ve a chance to process everything, we’re back to the matter of whether we should jump right into Into the Raging Sea or tread lightly. Probably somewhere in between. There’s certainly nothing revolutionary about Broadside’s sound which is immediately apparent, but we can probably spare the thirty-six minutes that they ask for up front with no problem and enjoy the ride.